Martha Graham Interprets Greek Myths blog Papathanasopoulou blog cover
28 Mar 2022

Martha Graham Interprets Greek Myths

[Cover Photo: Performing a movement from the “Daughters of the Night” chorus in Graham’s Night Journey while Prof. Nina Papathanasopoulou explains its symbolism. Dancers: Ioanna Tzanimi, Marianna Papakonstantinou, Natalia Kalogeropoulou, Nikki Vasili, Vassia Kolliou, and Maritina Katsimpraki. Photo by Dimitris Mamaloukos]

Earlier this month, CYA Professor Nina Papathanasopoulou presented part of her research on Martha Graham and Greek Mythology modified for a broad public during a special event at the American Community Schools of Athens (ACS), combining classical philology and live dance. Prof. Papathanasopoulou created this innovative presentation in collaboration with Penny Diamantopoulou, a Graham technique and repertory instructor, and with permission from the Martha Graham Dance Company in New York City. 

The presentation focused on Graham’s portrayal of the Ancient Greek Furies and on Night Journey, Graham’s dance that re-envisions the myth of Oedipus and Jocasta. During the presentation six professional dancers performed Graham technique combinations and excerpts from Martha Graham’s repertory pieces, Clytemnestra and Night Journey, arranged and restaged by Penny Diamantopoulou. 

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Prof. Nina Papathanasopoulou during her talk. Photo by Dimitris Mamaloukos. 
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Dancers during the Graham technique demo combinations. Photo by Dimitris Mamaloukos.

Attending the event were many CYA students, members of the CYA Faculty and Staff, as well as CYA President Alexis Phylactopoulos and his wife Mariella Phylactopoulou Traiforou. 

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CYA students Trea St. Hillaire, Amira Chowdhury, and James Clark along with Prof. Rosa Vasilaki at the theater after the presentation. Photo by Amira Chowdhury.

“It was an amazing experiential learning opportunity to learn about the myths behind Martha Graham’s dance techniques and to enjoy dance performances in real-time! [Papathanasopoulou’s] passion for ancient mythology and its saliency in the contemporary context came through effortlessly in tonight’s presentation and it was so refreshing to experience. Thank you for allowing us to have such a meaningful learning experience as part of our abroad journey.” 

CYA Spring ‘22 Student Amira Chowdhury

“I loved the incorporation of live dancers in the presentation as it brought Dr. Papathanasopoulou’s words to life. I was impressed by the dancers’ ability to convey such strong emotions through their movements and Dr. Papathanasopoulou’s comments prior to the dances and after provided the perfect context to make the story come to life. I truly enjoyed this presentation and was inspired by both my professor’s passion for her work and the legacy and work of Martha Graham.”

CYA Spring ‘22 Student Trea St. Hillaire

“I learned so much from Dr. Papathanasopoulou in her presentation and getting to see some modern dance in a Greek context was eye-opening and I’m grateful to be in a program that facilitates these kinds of learning opportunities!” 

CYA Spring ‘22 Student James Clark 

“A unique performance which makes the audience feel like being part of a live documentary: bringing together Greek myth, women’s gaze on classic masterpieces, and Martha Graham’s ground-breaking approach to modern dance, Professor Papathanasopoulou weaves a fascinating narrative. The dancers – all rigorously trained in the Martha Graham technique – embody superbly women’s struggles and the intensity of their emotions. Professor Papathanasopoulou’s erudite and passionate account creates a mesmerizing universe where dance, Greek tragedy, women’s sorrow, light and shadows converse, a universe where “movement never lies”.

CYA sociology professor Rosa Vasilaki